Do The Conspiracy Theories Pushed By Fox's Peter Johnson Come Straight From The Top?

Peter J Johnson and Roger AilesNew York magazine is reporting that resident Fox News conspiracy theorist Peter Johnson Jr. acts as the on-air mouthpiece for Fox News chairman Roger Ailes.

Johnson is officially a legal analyst for Fox News and has appeared on the network at least 75 times* in the last six months. But rather than commenting on legal issues, he often uses his appearance on Fox to make bizarre attacks on President Obama and others.

In addition to appearing on Fox, Johnson serves as Ailes personal attorney, and New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman reports that this election season, “when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air”:

[I]f you want to know what Roger Ailes really thinks about the news these days, here's a tip: Pay close attention to Peter Johnson Jr., Fox News's legal analyst. The Columbia-educated lawyer is certainly not as familiar to most viewers as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, but inside the network, Johnson has become, in many respects, more influential, thanks to his ties to Ailes. To understand Fox right now, you have to understand the unique role Peter Johnson Jr. has come to play in Ailes's inner circle.

Consider this: Johnson is an on-air pundit, weighing in on topics as varied as Trayvon Martin, Occupy Wall Street, Obamacare, and Benghazi. He is a regular fill-in host on Fox & Friends. And he is Ailes's personal attorney who negotiated the network chief's new four-year contract with News Corp., said to be worth upward of $30 million a year. Fox executives frequently find Johnson conferring with Ailes privately. “He is a fixture in Ailes's office,” one Fox source explained.

But Johnson's value to Ailes extends far beyond his work as a lawyer. This election season, when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air.

It makes one wonder if any of these comments by Johnson consisted of a message Ailes wanted to communicate:

  • Johnson repeatedly speculated that the Obama administration may have “sacrificed Americans” as a “political calculation” in Benghazi even though he admittedly had no evidence for his theory.
  • Johnson pushed a theory that President Obama might send American citizens to be tried and executed in Egypt in order to appease anti-American extremists.
  • Johnson claimed that Obama might send the man convicted as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to Egypt to be released despite flat denials from the Obama administration.
  • Johnson compared Obama to Machiavelli, accusing him of misdirecting voters' emotions and anger.
  • Johnson has claimed that Obama has abandoned the United States.
  • Johnson called birtherism a “legitimate issue” that was resolved by Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate, He also theorized that Obama publicized the birth certificate to distract from other issues.

* Text edited.